Despite possessing a modicum of track experience I feel intimidated. There’s a vast amount of power under my right foot, and even in boggo mode the SV’s steering is very fast and direct. Cramped into the cockpit and struggling to hear the fine details of the engine note through the helmet, I make a mental note to concentrate as hard as possible.
The Misano track is a fun one, a mix of tight corners and really fast kinks, with several areas that will require careful judgement on when to brake and when to steer. We pootle around at a relatively sedate speed, just to familiarise ourselves with the environment.
After a return to the pits, we head out one-by-one behind an instructor. I’m paired with Jeroen, who leads and watches as I try to keep up, giving instruction over a radio link directly into my helmet – brake hard here, lift off here, go into third gear here. The faster I go, the faster he goes. I’m also being monitored by telemetry in the car, which will be analysed after each session.
I’m feeling a bit more settled having completed a lap with no mishaps, and it’s just as well, as now things get more focused. There’s no more messing about in Strada mode– the SV is switched to Corsa, which loosens the stability control, stiffens the magnetic dampers and sharpens the throttle and steering. The gear change too becomes even more violent – Lamborghini has stuck with its automated manual transmission rather than a double-clutch affair, and although the shifts take only 50 milliseconds, they come as a shock to those used to seamless cog changes. Each pull of the paddle strains the neck muscles and jars the vision. The steering is even more direct, which takes some getting used to – having yet to learn how much grip is contained within the custom Pirelli P Zero Corsa tyres, I worry that the back will swing around at any second. For now, I’m braking early and only really letting the car off the leash on the straights. Those short blasts are exhilarating – with the extra power, and a few more rpm available than on the standard car, the acceleration is constant in every gear. I’m touching 230kph without getting past the fourth cog.
After three flying laps I still haven’t learned the circuit, and curse myself for not studying YouTube videos of Misano before the event. But in the pit garage, between drinks and cakes, sit a couple of simulators loaded with both the car and the circuit. A quarter of an hour later I’ve memorised what corners are where and what gears I should be using. I head out again.
This is better. Now that I know where I’m going, I focus on getting used to the Lamborghini’s foibles. The huge carbon ceramic brakes are feelsome and monumentally strong, and through a combination of marker cones and watching Jeroen in front of me, I’m learning to brake deeper and harder, easing off the pedal as I turn in and getting on the gas as early as I dare. The SV’s Haldex all-wheel drive system adjusts the torque bias between front and rear as necessary, so understeer is minimal on exit. The steering is becoming more intuitive as well. The mechanical grip is prodigious and above around 100kph the extra downforce, up 150 percent on the SV, really makes a difference.
Jeroen seems pretty pleased with my pace. “Well done, that was really good,” he says simply over the radio as we pull back into the pits. I know the fundamentals of what I need to do, it’s just a case of figuring out how far I can push them in the SV. It’s a ridiculously capable machine and I get the feeling I’m barely scratching the surface of what it can do.
“Even in boggo mode the SV’s steering is very fast and direct”
After the second session I go through the telemetry with an engineer. My information is benchmarked against a lap by one of the pro drivers, who clocked 1m 51.27s. My time so far is 2m 02.86s.
I realise I’m unlikely to beat an experienced professional, especially as the track conditions are changing dramatically under a baking hot sun, but I’m determined to beat the two-minute barrier. The telemetry lines tell the story – I’m braking too early, and need to carry more speed through the corners once I arrive at them.
After more simulator time to perfect my lines, I take my third run. Now I really know the track and focus on perfecting my braking points, trying to ape those that Jeroen is using as we lap faster and faster. I lean ever harder into the corners, my faith in the front end now such that I’m more aggressive on turn-in, but ready to wind in opposite lock if the back decides to slide. It doesn’t. I’m looking further ahead on the track, trying to perfect the exit of each turn so that it matches with the entry point of the next. By the time we pull back into the pits, I’m pretty pleased with how it went, although there are still high-speed kinks at the back of the circuit where I could have been braver, and braking areas where I could push even deeper. My nemesis is proving to be turn eight, home to one of the most intense braking points and one I can’t quite get right. Several times I brake hard, feel the back end lift slightly and squirm as I squeeze the pedal as much as I dare, but then realise I’m at cornering speed three metres too early. A stab of the throttle to keep the pace up isn’t efficient and upsets the balance of the car. But braking later means that I overshoot it, understeering past the apex by a metre of so. Gah!
Still, I go back to the telemetry, and my blue trace line is much closer to the red of the record. My time? 1m 56.72s, the fastest of anyone all day. I’m extremely pleased, especially as Jeroen suggests that the afternoon conditions make matching the original time, set in the morning, unlikely even for a pro. I reckon with extra time to focus even more on braking, I could get under 1m 55s.
“The track conditions are changing dramatically under a baking hot sun, but I’m determined to beat the two-minute barrier”
This has been a fascinating glimpse of the journey towards proper motorsport. This type of training to develop both personal skills and understand how to use technology to focus on areas of weakness has shaved seconds off my time in only a dozen or so laps. I want to keep going. Hell, I want to race.
I do worry though that, like the standard car, the SV would be a complete riot for 30 minutes and then a chore to put up with: like riding a rollercoaster for a full afternoon rather than in two-minute blasts. But here, under the tutelage of race drivers on the brilliant Misano track, with everything set to Lunatic, it’s a raw, visceral and adrenaline-filled experience and so, SO fast. I loved every sweaty moment of it.
*Images courtesy of Eros Maggi
Technical specifications on page 3